Although several have reached the championship game at the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic, no Class A or B school has won Oklahoma’s oldest girls basketball Tournament since since 2001. Calumet coach Tyler Snowden and his veteran team would like to change that.
“I was really excited for the girls when we got invited,” said Snowden, whose 10-2 club is ranked No. 2 in Class A and will face local hope Byng in a first-round contest at 6:30 p.m. Monday. “The girls had worked hard and made a name for themselves.
“It’s going to be a good situation for us,” he added. “It’s always fun to play different schools and people you normally don’t get to play.”
Snowden’s second Calumet squad reached the Class A semifinals last spring before losing to top-ranked Chattanooga, and he didn’t just bring back all five starters off that team — he got a bonus with the return of high-scoring senior forward Jordan Tech from a knee injury that forced her to miss the entire 2009-2010 season.
“She’s actually my tallest player (at six feet), but she doesn’t play inside all the time,” Williams said of Tech. “She’s a good shooter. She will probably play more on the outside than she does inside.”
With Tech sidelined last season, Emily Eaton, Mariah Miles and Katelyn Richardson carried the scoring load. They all averaged over 13 points per game (with Eaton the leader at just over 16), and the addition of Tech has given the Lady Chieftains one of the state’s most explosive lineups.
“We have a lot of girls who can play inside or can move outside and shoot,” Snowden explained. “We create a lot of mismatches in that regard.”
Eaton, the team’s 5-6 point guard, is part of another bumper crop of talent at that position for this year’s Mid-America.
“She’s a really good shooter and a good ball-handler,” Snowden said. “She doesn’t turn the ball over very much, and if you leave her open she can knock down 3s or hit pull-up jumpers in the paint.”
Snowden said Miles, a 5-6 senior, provides scoring and a lot of intangibles.
“She does everything,” he said of Miles, who averaged 13.6 points per game as a junior. “She’s just a really hard-nosed, tough girl. She can play inside, she can play outside, she can bring the ball down the floor, she’s a good rebounder and passer, and she’s a good shooter. Her biggest asset is her toughness.”
Richardson, the team’s only junior starter, averaged 13.8 points per game as a sophomore and teams with Eaton to give the Lady Chieftains a dynamic backcourt duo.
“Katelyn is a very good defender — she’s quick and has quick hands,” Snowden said. “She gets lots of steals. She can take the other team’s point guard out of the game, and she can also score.”
Megan Snyder, who averaged nine points and six rebounds per game last season, is an undersized (5-7) center who consistently handles bigger players at both ends of the floor.
“She plays inside in the post spot most of the time, but she’s a good shooter,” Snowden said. “She’s a good rebounder, and she’s tough, too. She usually guards the other team’s best post player because she’s so strong.”
Morgan Renbarger, who started in Tech’s spot last season as a sophomore, joins sophomore guard Micha Snyder to give the Lady Chieftains a solid 1-2 punch off the bench.
“She’s a great hustle player,” Snowden said of Renbarger. “You just can’t outwork her.
“Micha Snyder is a guard-type, really quick,” he added. “She’s the opposite of her sister, but she’s a good defender on the ball.”
Despite two narrow early-season losses (to Class 4A No. 7 Wagoner by two points and to 4A No. 2 Vinita by three at the Oklahoma’s Best Tournament), Wagner said his club has shown signs recently that it can once again make a run at Calumet’s first-ever girls state title.
“We’re starting to come around,” he explained. “Early on, it was really different having Jordan back. I had the same starting lineup every game last year; now I have seven girls who legitimately could start and who are pretty even. It just took some time for them to figure out how they fit together.
“We’re starting to figure out who we are,” he added. “You wouldn’t think one player would make a big difference, but we’re a lot different team than we were last year. I think at the start there was a lot of anxiety over who was going to do what. We’re more balanced, which makes it tougher for people to defend us, but I think it took awhile for people to get comfortable in what they were expected to do.”
Snowden said the Mid-America is part of a tough portion of his schedule just before and after Christmas that could define his team over the rest of the season.
“We’re going to really find out a lot about ourselves in this stretch — not only the level of competition we’re playing but the mental fatigue of playing this many good teams in row,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we handle things after playing so many tough games. It’s not only an honor to play in this tournament, but I also think it will be a big help to us when the playoffs come around.”